Newfoundland, Canada (1): Whisteling whales and icy icebergs

19.05 Amsterdam: Thank you, Dutch Rail!

It was tough to leave family and friends but it was time for the second leg of my tour. I had a long journey ahead, with special thanks to NS, our Dutch railway company. I had found a dirt cheap flight from London Gatwick to St. Johns, Canada. My outbound flight from Amsterdam was at 6 AM and it normaly takes only 1,5 hours. You know our country is tiny; Den Helder in the North to Vaals in the South in just over 3 hours, 4 with traffic). I, however, had to sleep-over at Schiphol Airport Departures area since our railways doesn’t run night trains for us, Southerners whereas the Dutch in the West have a superb night schedule. Boohoo!!

Hey, it was swell to spend a night with drug addicts and prostitutes. Joking!!! I just had to write this to help stamp out this international misunderstanding. Yes, soft drugs is legal in the NL [in small quantities] but really, don’t expect to find addicts at every corner. Actually, I read somewhere that the NL has less drugs issues than other [comparable] countries. So give us a break, please!

20.05 Signal Peak in St. Johns, Labrador: It’s a whale, it’s a whale!!

I reached St. Johns, the largest town on the Island of Labrador in Newfoundland, around noon. After more than 24 hours of non-stop travel, I had to take a tough decision: to sleep or not to sleep. The Jet Lag Prevention Protocol stipulates to persevere until the early evening but I felt really tired. I decided to ignore the fatigue, put on my hiking boots and set course to the famous Signal Hill trail. The reward came instantly in the form of stunning scenery.

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At Signal Peak’s summit I noticed some movement in the bay deep down below. A fish, I thought. Correction, a big fish! I thought: wow, that is a really, really, really big fish!! Then, gasping in disbelief, I realised it was… a humpback whale! I couldn’t help it and shrieked ‘whale, whale, whale!!’. I now understand that I may have come across as a person in need of immediate help. The local couple that rushed to the ‘rescue’ looked a little vexed initially but then laughed about my bona fide excitement.

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It seemed to be my lucky day. Only minutes later I spotted a flock of the rarest species. Their Latin name is Homo Sapiens. Lol! They had found a bald headed eagle sitting on a nest. Wow, now that is a big bird!

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When arriving in St. Johns’ I felt strangely unadjusted, you know just not in traveling mode. Could it be that one’s ‘globetrotter vibe’ could already distinguish after 2 weeks at home and/or 1 business meeting? I had read up on travelers that couldn’t adjust to their normal lives anymore but I was experiencing the opposite; homesick upon arrival. Great start, miss van Dijk..

I was pondering upon this topic on that first hike when I felt my enthusiasm re-ignite concurrently with each curve of the trail, view point and wild life spotted. My body and soul re calibrated, got back in balance. I was hungry for new adventures. Tired? Heck no!!!

21.05 Atlantic Ocean: Icy icebergs from heaven

The first adventure planned was a kayaking tour but I had a change of hearts. I decided to be sensible; the odds to spot a whale were close to nil as they hadn’t arrived from their migration yet. The nearest iceberg was 50 nautical miles (92 km) off shore, so not kayaking there! And I was weary about the water temperature; the Titanic sank close to St. Johns and I remember that water was 4 degrees so any splashing could lead to common colds, pneumonia or worse. So I booked a boat instead. Better!

Alana, an amazing young Canadian redhead, joined me. She praised icebergs and without exaggeration, icebergs are BEAUTIFUL! They are in my top 5 of most awesome sights. They seem to be sent straight from heaven with their bright baby blue color. (Scientific note: the blue color is caused by the refraction of the light in the air pockets that resides inside the ice mass. The air gets stuck when fresh snow compresses and transforms into new [iceberg] ice. Glaciers grow in the same manner as a matter of fact.

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There is nothing heavenly about Canada’s National dish, poutine, which is chips topped with melted cheese -so far so good- and… gravy (in Dutch: vleesjus). Jikes! Okay, poutine is perfect at 3 in the morning after a heavy night [because then all fatty foods taste divine, right?].

I had ordered mine for lunch time. Wrong timing! I tried to save the meal with a cheese top-up to mask the taste of gravy. The waiter returned my plate with more cheese… and more gravy, transforming the dish to a gravy soup with soaked fries. Yuck! Even Alana agreed (and my apologies to all [Canadians] who feel insulted by my poutine review).

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